Wind halts Nasa balloon launch

Nasa's hopes for a successful launch of its super-pressure balloon were deflated by a westerly wind at Wanaka Airport yesterday.

It was the fifth launch attempt the space agency has had to cancel so far this year.

Easterly winds are needed for a successful launch.

Wind at the ground and lower levels, as well as in the stratosphere, all contributed to the cancellation.

Yesterday's attempt was the closest Nasa has come to a successful launch this year.

The decision to abort the launch came about 7.50am.

Mission manager Gabe Garde said preparations had been well under way and, after hours of waiting for the winds to align, the balloon team had been ready to launch, but a westerly wind change meant a launch was not feasible.

``We were as close as we've ever been in this campaign for launching, but the wind direction simply wouldn't support taking the next steps of bringing the balloon out and beginning inflation operations,'' he said.

Nasa would continue to assess the weather to see if conditions would support a launch later this week.

It took five attempts before a successful launch of the 532,000cu m balloon last year.

Once airborne, the super-pressure balloon is expected to circumnavigate the globe about the southern hemisphere's mid-latitudes once every one to three weeks, depending on wind speeds in the stratosphere.

The aim is for it remain airborne for more than 100 days.


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